In a Nutshell: As a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Veridian Credit Union is committed to serving underbanked or unbanked people in their communities. The credit union takes its time learning about its members and working with them to break down any barriers keeping them from achieving a successful financial future. Veridian is intentional about creating equitable access to credit and financial literacy resources to help decrease the wealth gap.
Now more than ever, it is vital to be financially literate. In uncertain economic times, having access to financial resources can mean the difference between keeping or losing a family’s home.
Unfortunately, access to these potentially life-changing resources was often difficult to navigate during the pandemic. Families struggled to get relief without someone there to lead them through the processes.
Early in the pandemic, researchers across the country estimated that more than 30 million Americans were at risk of being evicted from their homes. Families were forced to make tough decisions without knowing what kind of help was available to them.
Some big banks may use a cookie-cutter approach to approving loans or mortgages, but credit unions like Veridian Credit Union work with each member to figure out a plan that works to get them the help they need.
Veridian serves more than 270,000 people through its 30 branches and online portals. The credit union has its roots in Waterloo, Iowa, where it started as the John Deere Employees Credit Union in the 1930s.
In 1986, the credit union changed its name to John Deere Community Credit Union and expanded to include people who lived or worked in Cedar Falls.
In 2006, it went through another name change, Veridian Credit Union. The new name comes from the words “verdant,” meaning green and growing, and “veritas,” or truth.
Providing the Resources so Members can Succeed
When choosing a financial institution, people need to know that their money is safe. As a credit union, Veridian is a not-for-profit cooperative fully owned by its members and has no shareholders to please. This allows Veridian to focus solely on providing benefits to its members. Deposits at Veridian are also federally insured to at least $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration.
In its commitment to making the community better, Veridian earned its government-issued Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) certification in 2016.
CDFI certification is only awarded to financial institutions that expand economic opportunities for low-income communities with a mission to promote community development, provide both financial and educational services, and demonstrate accountability to underserved markets.
“We were able to take a look at the barriers keeping people from being approved for a mortgage in the communities that we serve,” Veridian Credit Union Community Inclusion Manager Angela Weekley said. “CDFI resources help us to offset the cost and risk to better-serve people with lower credit scores, help them overcome barriers to home ownership and create a path to a successful financial future.”
The certification gives CDFIs more tools and resources to serve the unbanked and underbanked in their communities, and Veridian uses those resources to help low-income and underserved members overcome barriers to homeownership with a Financial Inclusion Mortgage.
Veridian offers all qualified members the opportunity to buy a home for no money down with 100% home financing available – not just those it serves with Financial Inclusion Mortgages.
Veridian also matches savings through Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) in partnership with local community nonprofit organizations. Low-income members can use these accounts to save money, and the credit union will match a portion of the savings to help fund the purchase of a home for a first-time homebuyer.
“So whatever your barrier is, we work alongside you and make an individual plan along with your IDA to make sure you’re able to secure a mortgage,” Weekley said.
The credit union also offers loans outside of Individual Development Accounts. All members can apply for personal, auto, and home loans. The credit union also has business accounts and loans available to business owners.
Members can also protect their investments with a variety of insurance policies. Veridian Insurance offers home, auto, life, farm, and business insurance policies to fit everyone’s needs.
Veridian’s banking solutions offer competitive benefits, including free checking accounts with no minimum balance requirements and free overdraft protection.
The credit union has three Visa credit cards, each with a variety of perks, including low APRs, rewards points, and up to 2% cash back.
Building Opportunities to Learn Financial Literacy
Veridian Credit Union recently revamped its website to better organize a broad variety of its financial literacy resources and make them more easily accessible online for access at any time. Veridian offers financial products, services and guidance across its field of membership, including throughout Iowa and eastern Nebraska.
Veridian aims to give everyone an opportunity to learn how to be financially successful. The credit union has always offered the community ways to learn more about money by working with members through their needs, and helping them create a road map to retirement with virtual seminars and video guides.
One of Veridian’s challenges is to help educate people in the communities it serves about smart financial decisions. Its outreach focuses on areas with high unbanked and underbanked populations. The events the credit union hosts aim to build trust among existing and prospective members that it is a resource in the community.
Veridian’s website recently underwent a redesign to make it easier for users to gain access to educational resources.
The credit union also offers a financial health survey within its online banking platform that members can take to shed light on their financial situations, where they are spending their money, and where they can save. Members can then take the results of that survey and speak with a representative to create a financial plan for the future.
“We make sure our staff is educated on what it means to be low to moderate income,” Weekley said. “We figure out how we can best serve members from those markets.”
Giving Back and Investing into the Community
Veridian also offers grants for nonprofits that help to eliminate poverty. Successful Financial Future Grants are general operating grants of up to $5,000 and are available to nonprofits whose work addresses barriers to financial stability by educating individuals on financial literacy or employment readiness. The grants are not for projects or programs specifically, but are for organizations fully engaged in work centered around financial literacy and/or self-sufficiency.
Recent grant recipients include Habitat for Humanity and The Job Foundation, which gets young people thinking about financial literacy early in life. The Job Foundation provides classes on how to make smart decisions with their money to students from second grade through high school.
In addition to grant funding, Veridian gives back to the community through random acts of kindness on International Credit Union Day and annual Thanksgiving meal giveaways. In another giving campaign after Thanksgiving, members can vote for which charities Veridian should donate to on Giving Tuesday.
The credit union gives $14,000 in scholarships every year, and in 2020, Veridian said it gave $1.5 million in grants, scholarships, sponsorships, and donations.
“One of the things in our business plan is to decrease the wealth gap,” Weekley said. “We partner with non-profit foundations in our communities that work to eliminate barriers to people having successful financial futures.”